I was legitimately pleased and surprised that I found myself really enjoying the new Justice League movie. Given the train-wreck that was Batman v. Superman and the disappointments with director Zack Snyder, I was expecting the worst. But the movie is genuinely good… not great and not mind-blowing, but solid. A good and fun adventure in the DC Cinematic Universe.
This is partly due to the Snyder having to drop out of the movie due to a family tragedy and Joss Whedon stepping in to complete the movie. Instead of the dour, ponderous, gloomy, ugly, and angry tone of Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman, the new movie is brighter and funnier and lacks the portentous, overly-moody soundtrack. Most of the movie doesn’t feel like two directors were working on it though. That said, if you are familiar with Joss Whedon as a writer, you can see his sense of humor and his familiarity with the character in some scenes.
So the plot… Batman (Affleck version), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot version), The Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg team up. They need to work together to stop the evil machinations of some giant CGI boring guy with a silly helmet who wants to DESTROY THE WORLD!!!! His name is improbably Steppenwolf and he wants mother boxes to open portals and bring in his parademons to blah blah blah. He’s super boring but the point of the movie is the heroes. But it’d be nice to have a good villain.
Our recurring heroes are good. Ben Affleck continues to be a very good Batman… and he’s a better, 100% less angry than he was in Batman v. Superman. He was good in that earlier movie but it was so bleak and angry. Gal Gadot is back as Wonder Woman and she continues to be good and they (or at least Joss Whedon) presents her as strong as she should be. They hint that she should be the leader of the Justice League and she’s one of the warriors on the team, always first into the fray with her sword and shield. So Zack Snyder’s worst impulses didn’t overwhelm the character (even if there are some obvious butt shots).
The new heroes all needed more screen time. Cyborg is a bit one-note (being part robot) yet seems to have the most interesting but largely untold back story. The Flash is good but he’s used way too much as comic relief (probably Joss Whedeon’s worst impulses). Aquaman doesn’t really represent anything but a brawler with a pitchfork… not much point to have an Aquaman without aqua… probably best to have brought in another character.
What I enjoyed or appreciated the most in the flick were some really solid character interactions and clever dialog. It helps the movie wasn’t oozing with plot holes and logic problems too. But mainly it was just appreciating these actors, even if they all didn’t get enough screen time, riffing with each other.
The action – which is often against the boring villain and sometimes with surprise characters – is good. Never really great and the end fight does have too many “and this happens and then this happens” type moments. But earlier scenes are better and do a good job showcasing the actors and their characters. Everybody gets something to do.
Barring the Wonder Woman movie, this is easily the best of the DC movies. Man of Steel had a better production and budget but it wasn’t a particularly good superhero (or at least Superman) movie. Anything was better than Batman v. Superman. Suicide Squad was fun but a mess. Wonder Woman is a better overall movie but this one feels more comic booky (for good or ill).
So, yes, this was a surprisingly good movie. Not a great movie but not a disappointing flick and not a trainwreck. It’s technically a little short and could have used more time with its new characters. It’s got a good sense of humor that doesn’t always land and relies too much on The Flash. I liked the film… not sure if it’s a must-see for people who aren’t fans of superhero flicks, but if you like these types of flicks, it’s surely worth watching.